Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 657 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
"Acknowledge the Government's positive intervention in this important area of social policy, in support of achieving a real living wage for working people in the ACT."
MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.06): Mr Speaker, the government will be supporting the amendment proposed by Ms Dundas. We do not believe it substantially alters the material detail of the motion. We are quite happy to accept her suggestion.
This is an important motion. I thank Ms Gallagher for bringing it to the attention of members. For too long in this place, previous governments have failed to pay proper care and attention to matters that affect people on lower incomes. It is interesting that, when I became the minister responsible for industrial relations, I asked on how many occasions the previous government, and the previous minister responsible for industrial relations, had attended ministerial council meetings of workplace relations ministers, as part of the Council of Australian Governments arrangements. I was advised that the answer was: "Not very often."
Indeed, the previous government-the Liberal government-chose quite frequently not to send their ministers to Council of Australian Governments meetings, when it came to meetings of the workplace relations ministers, simply because they apparently did not deem it to be important enough. So, whilst other states and territories were represented by their elected representative at such meetings, the ACT had to make do with an official-an official who, no doubt, sought to do their best but clearly it showed just how unimportant the previous government considered such matters. They could not even be bothered, on most occasions, to send the responsible minister.
In contrast, this government does take industrial relations seriously. That is why we have joined with the other Labor governments. Indeed, I hope, now that there has been a change of government in South Australia, that the South Australian Labor government will also join in supporting the joint submission to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
We had joined with all the other state governments-New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory-to endorse the ACTU's claim of $25 per week for lower paid workers. We have argued in the joint submission, as have all other state Labor governments, that this increase is an appropriate safety net increase because: it is consistent with the current wage fixing principles; it is reasonable, given the prevailing economic conditions; the increase will not have a negative effect on employment-I think Ms Gallagher and also Ms Dundas have rightly addressed that issue-and it will go some way to meeting the needs of the lower paid in our community.
More importantly, though, the proposed wage increase is fair. It is what is required, at the very least, to ensure that there is a genuine safety net for those people on the lowest of incomes. This, indeed, reflects the intention of the Workplace Relations Act. That is, that the AIRC must ensure that a safety net of fair minimum wages and conditions is established and maintained.